I suffer from Alzheimer's, just not in the way you think. So do you.
When my beloved grandmother (and consequently, our whole family) fought a long and brave battle with the disease, I first became acquainted with the reality that a person can endure suffering from an illness that someone else has. Even after the battle is over and lost, the psychological effects remain. It's hereditary, so does that mean that we've got it? Do we each have to spend the rest of our lives fighting a disease that we may or may not have? If we don't, does it mean that everything we already went through was meaningless? That, Gentle Reader, is just more suffering. It's also the earliest signs of a nasty disease I like to call "Paranoia."
But, in a way, aren't we all suffering from all kinds of diseases that we've never even come in contact with?
When I was a kid, it seemed that my Madre put every food imaginable into two distinct categories: things that will give you cancer, and things that will stop you from getting cancer. I always wondered why everything I wanted to eat was in the first category, and everything I hated was in the second. I also wondered why none of the other kids seemed as nervous about their lunch.*
Now, it seems, everything either slows Alzheimer's down or speeds it up. And it's not just what's in your brown paper bag, oh no! It's cell phones, dairy, word puzzles, and chocolate. It's dyes, curries, and cholesterol. Yes, that's right: cholesterol may kill you, but it will also save your life. Next week, who knows what else will be added to the list. AIDS, maybe? Does AIDS cure Alzheimer's?
Remember when margarine was this great thing that all the smart people loved and the stupid people despised? Remember how it was going to stop heart disease and feed that poor kid in Rwanda? Remember how we then found out that margarine was just a big glop of poison? Poison, I say! Run back to your artery-clogging butter, citizens of America!
Now, I know that my Madre was dead wrong. The two categories aren't cancer and no cancer: we're not close to being that lucky. There is only one category: death. Everything in the world causes one horrible ailment or another. The only thing you can do is choose whichever kind of agonizing death seems the most friendly. It's like we're all in that Star Trek episode, you know? The one with the space hippies that made absolutely no sense until it turned into this cool allegory about the Garden of Eden? And where the Garden of Eden ended up just being a big ball of poison? That is the place we're living now. Poison Planet.
The Garden of Eden is poison, people. You heard it here first! Close that Bible!
Oh yeah, and this blog will kill you. Sorry.
Of course, the fact that we live on Poison Planet isn't all bad. As with every bout of mass paranoia, there are the heroes that emerge from the smoldering remains of sanity. Remember how celebrities used to be cold, unfeeling people who had no morals and spit at everything decent, but now, they're all cuddly people who hate breast cancer? Remember how before, you couldn't find a hand mixer in pink? I mean, even your M&Ms are fighting breast cancer now. Breast cancer is IN. Sometimes, I'm jealous of breast cancer.**
I mean, behind all of the scare tactics and the merchandising, have we completely forgotten that life, as a whole, is pretty good? Have we forgotten that true love still exists, and that babies are beautiful? We shouldn't. We shouldn't forget that a good, gracious God loves us enough to give us stuff as heavenly as cheese, chocolate, and air. I myself, am a big fan of air. I just can't get enough.
Raise your hand if you were just thinking about how air is going to kill you.
The truth is that my grandmother did die of Alzheimer's, that lots of people are in a lot of pain, and that I always buy the cancer-fighting M&Ms.**** The truth is that there's a lot of bad stuff out there that we're smart enough to know how to prevent, and if we can prevent something, we should. The point I'm trying to make is that we shouldn't unnecessarily burden ourselves by worrying about every disease known to man. I mean, there has to be a balance, right? There has to be a point where you should just eat the darn chocolate bar.
Otherwise, we're all going to spend our lives suffering from diseases we don't have.
So, just take a deep breath. Please? Nobody likes a Herbert.*****
But I like you.
Regards, best wishes, and a dash of sanity,
*Thanks, Madre. How you had six children and still had enough energy to care about whether or not we ate our brussell sprouts, I will never know.
**If Edgar Allen Poe were still alive, he'd write this great short story about a secluded group of people who cured their breast cancer by infecting themselves with AIDS. Could you imagine how popular that would be when it was made into a musical? Of course, it would only work if Idina Menzel is in it.***
***Sorry, everybody I just offended. Sorry.
****I wish they made some that fought Alzheimer's, though I realize how problematic that would be. It's hard to fight something you also cause. How does cholesterol do it?
*****Did you get that? Really? I love you.
******Sorry about all the asterisks, people. I got a little excited.